Florida Caverns State Park - Janet Bellacera

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     I found out about this state park years ago, but have never had the chance to get there.  Well, as I planned my trip to the Panhandle I knew that there was no way I was going to miss the Florida Caverns State Park and Falling Waters State Park which is literally 30 minutes west of this park.  I purposefully planned my route into the Panhandle based on this location.  So, as we drove on I10 and passed Tallahassee, the heavens opended up.  UGH, summertime in Florida sucks.  It started to pour, and I'm not talking about heavy rain, I'm talking about hurricane type rain.  This was another first for our travel trailer Ellie, and a first for my husband and I too, we've never towed the trailer in this type of weather.  It was horrible to say the least and the rain was relentless.  So we took out our phones and checked the satellite to see if we had some type of clearing in the sky, and thankfully right were Florida Caverns State Park stood was a clear skyline, so we decided to push through the crappy weather and just continue on our journey. 

     As we made our way into the park the park was brought to life by the recent rain.  The leaves took on a bright neon green glow.  At the ranger station we were greeted by a super awesome guy who welcomed us to FL Caverns.  I tell you what, I have yet to find a ranger at any of the FL state parks who do not truly love their jobs and are eager to share their love for nature with everyone who visits.  So if your interested in seeing this awesome state park and all that I has to offer here are a few things you need to know:

-  Your entrance into the park does not give you access to the cave, there is a separated fee for that tour.

-  Tours are limited to a certain number of people, you should get there early for the best chance to get on a tour.  If not, you may have to wait for the next tour.

     Your guided tour meets at the interruptive building and from there, you take a short walk to the entrance to the cave.  The tiny stone staircase and big metal door are kind of eerie, once the door closes behind you, you do feel like you have entered a secret tunnel.  Your eyes will have to take a minute to adjust to the dim lighting in the cave but once they do you are in awe of the majesty that sits below the surface.  Formations in every shape and color take your breath away and you wonder to yourself how was this all created?

     Without getting to technical, it's actually pretty simple to understand how the formations in the cave came to be.  This park cave system began some 38 million year ago when much of the southeaster part of the US was submerged in water.  As sea levels began to fall, shell, coral and other sediments hardened to form limestone.  During the last million years or so the acidic groundwater carved passageways and tunnels underground forming the cave system.  The odd shaped columns and drippings that you see on the ceiling of the cave are stalactites, they are created when surface water containing dissolved calcium fall through the cracks in the ground and drip onto the ceiling of the cave, over time, these formations will begin to appear.

     Now here is one of the most fascinating things  I found out while on my tour.  These stalagmites or columns as they appear  are created when the water containing calcium that dripped down from the cave ceiling accumulates on the cave floor, eventually the column is formed when the stalagmites and stalactites join together.  Limestone stalagmites such as these, take very long to form, on average we are talking about only 10cm every thousand years. too.

Things You Need To Know When Visiting

-  In order to access the cave you will have to descend 50 steep stairs to the cave entrance.

-  The cave is narrow in several areas, and in a few spots you will need to crouch down to walk because the ceiling height is only 4 1/2 feet tall.  

-  The ground is uneven, and slippery.

-  The cave maintains a year around temperature of 65 degrees and is damp.

-  The cave is dimly light, but once your eyes have adjusted visibility is ok.

-  Photography is obviously allowed, but keep in mind that water drips down from the ceiling of the cave.

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